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Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas swap shows fantasy value of RPM

RPM and the SCHOENE system help show the impact that Jae Crowder will have with the Cavaliers. Brian Babineau/Getty Images

From the Golden State Warriors to the San Antonio Spurs, the sharpest teams in the NBA today are the ones that pay closest attention to the numbers, taking every detail into account and adjusting accordingly in order to come up with a winning strategy.

This season at ESPN Fantasy, we are letting you take a page out of that book by digging deeper into the numbers by using real plus-minus (RPM) and Kevin Pelton's SCHOENE system in our fantasy basketball projections.

All it takes is a look at the recent Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas trade to see how much these projections matter. When that trade went down, your mind probably started to race with implications of the swap. Is Kyrie going to be even better with the Boston Celtics? Can Isaiah still be the man for the Cleveland Cavaliers next to LeBron James?

You watched hot takes on TV, read stories, and maybe caught a podcast or two as everyone broke down the rare flip of NBA superstars. Even still, you sold yourself short if you missed out on Kevin Pelton's Insider story that used real plus-minus stats to analyze the trade.

Here is a key element of the story that you probably would have overlooked without the insight RPM provides:

"While the two All-Star point guards in this trade have stolen all the headlines, it's the third veteran player -- Crowder -- who actually has the best RPM projection of the three. Why is that? In part, it reflects the defensive shortcomings of both Irving and Thomas, at least during the regular season.

Befitting their status as efficient, high-scoring point guards, Irving and Thomas rate as standout offensive contributors. Thomas' projected plus-5.2 offensive RPM -- based on performance during the past three seasons and an age adjustment -- puts him sixth in the NBA, while Irving (plus-4.2) ranks 13th. Yet both players have defensive RPM projections that put them in the league's bottom 25, with Thomas (minus-3.7) second worst among signed players ahead of only Bojan Bogdanovic of the Indiana Pacers.

By contrast, Crowder's projection is far more balanced. He's one of 12 players in the league who project at least 1.5 points better than league average per 100 possessions on both offense and defense. Nine of those 12 players were All-Stars in 2017, with Nikola Jokic and Ricky Rubio as the other two exceptions."

When trades like this go down, it isn't just the players involved in the deal who are impacted -- it's many players on both teams, from superstars to role players. Just think about how Jae Crowder's presence on the Cavs will change the roles of guys like Iman Shumpert and JR Smith, or how depleted Boston's depth is now that Thomas and Crowder have followed Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk out the door.

It's not easy to figure out how a trade, injury or other player movement can impact everyone on the team. On top of that, often the eye test can be deceiving, as some of the game's best offensive players hurt their team just as much on the defensive end.

Now you have a tremendous tool at your disposal with our improved projections, so be sure to rely on this tool often throughout the 2017-18 fantasy basketball season with every roster decision you make.